Saturday, May 31, 2008
Friday, May 30, 2008
In a “one-of-a-kind” research project in 1927, John Weaver and William Brunder, botanists at the University of Nebraska, grew many different vegetable crops and, over time, excavated and mapped the course of the root systems. They published their work in a book titled “Root Development of Vegetable Crops,” published by McGraw-Hill Company, New York. To my knowledgy, no one since has attempted such a difficult task.
Vines of ‘Small Sugar’ pumpkin were about 16 feet long at maturity and the top 12 inches of soil were filled with roots. The taproot of mature pumpkins grew 6 feet deep and had 10 or more lateral branches that extensively branched outward for 5 to 17 feet or more. Many of these lateral roots were 2 to 4 feet long and all complexly and minutely rebranched, forming a “wonderfully efficient root complex”. The second and third feet of soil were also thoroughly filled with roots, with the fourth foot of soil containing many vertically descending roots. Plant size of pie pumpkins, like ‘Small Sugar’, may not be as large and vigorous as the jack-o-lantern types. It is probable that the root systems of larger pumpkins such as Atlantic Giants may be more extensive than those reported in this book.
Wednesday, May 28, 2008
Saturday, May 24, 2008
Thursday, May 22, 2008
Saturday, May 17, 2008
Friday, May 16, 2008
To plant your pumpkin you should mound your prepared soil (soil preparation is talked about below) so it looks like Table Top Mountain. The top should be a couple of inches higher than the surrounding soil. Plant your pumpkin a few inches from the edge of the mound with a little mycorrhizal fungi in the hole where the roots will be touching. This will give you more area for the sun to warm the soil around the pumpkin and help it get a good start during cool Colorado spring nights.
Don't be afraid to put some dirt under the vines to support them as the plant transitions to its new home.
Thursday, May 15, 2008
Wednesday, May 14, 2008
Monday, May 12, 2008
Thursday, May 8, 2008
Planting a pumpkin seed is easy. In a nice peat pot place the seed about a quarter of an inch below the soil surface in a nice starter soil and keep the soil lightly moist over the next 12-14 days. After about 14 days the pumpkin plant should start pushing through the top of the soil and you will be amazed at how fast that little plant will grow.
My daughter's pumpkin was planted on Monday and has done pretty well so far. We put a wall-o-water around the pumpkin to shield it from wind and to keep it a little warmer at night and so far it has done pretty well.
Last year I didn't really plan on growing a first prize pumpkin. My only goal was to grow a pumpkin that was the biggest on the street. By the end of August I knew that I had something special because I could literally see the pumpkin grow every day. Big pumpkins need great soil. When I first plant my seeds I like to use Happy Frog Light Warrior soil less medium with some mycorrhizal fungi added. I've tried other types of soils and soil less mediums and there is a 20% difference in the size of a seedling planted in Happy Frog verses regular top soils.
Once planted don't give your pumpkin any fertilizer. The plants are tender and don't need any special nutrients outside of what the compost, worm castings, and soil has to offer. There are lots of good sites on how to build a good compost but if you don't have a compost pile and a lot of time, try the following soil prep recipe. You can buy most of these items at Home Depot, Wal Mart or most good garden centers:
- Earth Gro Composted Steer Manure with humus
- Nature's Yeild or EKO brand compost
- Happy Frog Soil conditioner
- Earthworm Castings
- A mild organic fertilizer with mycorrhizal fungi such as Happy Frog 3-3-3
Dig the above amendments into your soil at least one foot deep and at least twelve feet wide from the center of where you intend to plant your pumpkin about a month before planting. After digging that mixture into your soil you should have a pretty decent planting area for your pumpkin plant. A soil test from the Colorado Extension service can help you know exactly what you need to put into your soil. Pumpkin roots can travel as far as 25 feet and tap roots can travel another 5 feet from the vine so the bigger an area you can prepare the better off you will be.
The difference between a giant pumpkin and a good sized pumpkin is the soil preparation that happens in the fall however. The above recipe is good when the planting season is upon you, but to really build your soil to world class levels you need to start in the fall and let it sit for 6 months. Good soil prep includes 2-3 yards of compost added to the soil in a 30x30 space along with humic acid and any other additional soil amendments that are recommended from your soil test. In Denver most soils tend to be alkali which means you need to drop the ph levels of the soil. The best way to do this is add sulfur and organic matter to the soil along with the rest of the amendments and rototill it all in. By spring you should see the ph levels of your soil drop a fair amount. In late winter or early spring you should do another soil test and then make the proper adjustments to your soil to make sure your organic matter, nitrogen, phosphorus and potash levels are just right.
This blog is dedicated to growing pumpkins in Denver, Colorado. A lot of it will be tips from my own experience and some of it will be my own successes and failures as the season progresses. This year I hope to get a pumpkin that is around 300 pounds. Come back frequently for regular updates on the three pumpkin plants we plan on growing this season.
This post was originally written in October of 2007 after my first pumpkin contest (the Arvada Festival of Scarecrows)...
Remember the Charlie Brown Halloween special where Linus was waiting for the Great Pumpkin to rise out of the pumpkin patch? I always kind of considered Linus a woosy for it. You just knew the kid was wasting his time. You wanted to just scream, "Wait until Christmas you idiot and Santa will take care of you! Great Pumpkin? Stupid!"
I am now a believer in the Great Pumpkin. My conversion came swift and almost unexpected. There I was minding my own business and a thought came to my head. "I wonder if there are any giant pumpkin competitions here in Arvada" I said to myself one afternoon. After a couple of quick searches on YourHub.com I found what I was looking for. A giant pumpkin competition that was part of the Festival of Scarecrows here in Arvada. I instantly decided I was in.
You see I've been growing a giant pumpkin since early spring of this year in my own backyard. A few times a week I would water it and tend to the flowers to make sure the perfect pumpkin would get a good start. At first it wasn't much to look at. As of July it was just a mass of vines and a few flowers with just a start of a pumpkin. I was actually kind of concerned that it would have enough time to grow before the first frost hit so I would at least have some kind of a pumpkin for halloween. Come August however it exploded. You could literally watch the small yellow, round bulb grow and slowly turn into a bright orange pumpkin. In October I knew I had something special. What started as my usual obsession to have the biggest pumpkin on the street turned into a desire to see if I could have the biggest pumpkin in Arvada. I saw that last year's winner in the YourHub article was about 200 lbs and although I had no idea how much my pumpkin weighed, I thought from the pictures that maybe my pumpkin had a chance.
As the competition came closer my faith wavered however. I considered entering the pumpkin under Haddie's name thinking there might be a better chance of winning in the kids division. After all, Haddie had spent a number of hours watering the pumpkin this summer as well as spraying daddy in the process.
At 6:30am in the morning of the big show my good neighbor Darrin was kind enough to come over to help me load the pumpkin in the car. The pumpkin was heavy. Really heavy. I thought maybe I could win the overall competition but I pushed that thought to the back of my mind and kept to my origional plan of entering it under Haddie's name. Certainly someone else must have a bigger pumpkin I reasoned and it was better to play it safe. When I arrived at the show and parked in the pumpkin unloading area one of the two men who assisted me with the unloading said, "Oh this is a big one. I think we've got the winner right here." My faith then gained strength and I put the pumpkin in the adult category.
After going to lunch we returned to the competition for the big weigh in. Nearly a dozen big pumpkins were entered in the contest. After scanning the field I could tell there were two clear favorites and mine was one of them. The second big one was really big, perfectly shaped and a fine specimen. I had to lean over to Amber and say "I think that one is the winner" and I began to regret that I didn't put the pumpkin in the children's competition.
Soon they began to weigh in the pumpkins starting with the Children's division. After the children's pumpkins were weighed and the prizes awarded the adult competition began. They started by weighing in the smaller pumpkins. One by one they weighed them and the top weight increased each time.
Finally they got to my pumpkin and the other pumpkin. To my surprise they weighed in the other big pumpkin before mine and since they had been going in order by size I thought maybe mine had a shot. The other pumpkin came in at a whopping 40lbs above the next biggest pumpkin! My heart sank. They then began to load up my pumpkin. The three guys strained as they lifted the pumpkin to the scale. One commented, "This is a heavy pumpkin." Again my heart took strength.
After placing it on the scale the official weigher started sliding the scale back and forth. I knew it was close but I couldn't see from my position how close. The weigher then asked for someone to give an official check of the weight and then the announcement came. 141.5 lbs! One pound more than the other big pumpkin. My pumpkin was the winner! After pictures, awards and prizes I was given a moment to think a little bit about it all and realized that the blanket toting kid was right. The Great Pumpkin does rise out of the pumpkin patch and bring gifts to all of the good girls and boys. He really does!